1. True or false: On safe terrain, there’s nothing wrong with leading your horse through a difficult situation on the trail, rather than fighting him from the saddle.
T / F
2. True or false: If your sound, healthy horse is acting up on the trail, it’s best if you can work through any training issues at the root of his behavior before turning back.
T / F
3. If a trail becomes more challenging than you had anticipated it would be, it’s best to push on and benefit from the learning opportunity.
T / F
4. In any challenging situation on the trail, whether you turn around or press on, it’s important to…
A) show the other riders you’re not afraid.
B) discipline your horse if he acts up.
C) remain your horse’s “herd leader.”
HOW’D YOU DO? (Answers below.)
1. T is correct. Your horse may well be braver with you on the ground, leading the way. With you on his back, he feels more vulnerable. When the footing is dangerous, however, it’s best to remain mounted and seek a safer place before dismounting.
2. T is correct. You don’t want to overdo it, but if you can work through a balkiness or fearful moment in real time, that’s the ideal. This doesn’t mean you must correct all training problems before calling it a day. But it helps even if you just wait for a moment when your horse relaxes a bit, or slows down, or is compliant in some small way before turning for home.
3. F is correct. Don’t push on if the trail becomes treacherous or a horse or rider is suffering in any way, including mentally. If you and any other riders are ready to ride on through a little fear, and can do so safely, that’s great progress. If you’ve ridden far enough and want to end on a good note—that’s fine too.
4. C is correct. You needn’t impress anyone, but by remaining calm and decisive, you let your horse know you’re still his leader. This gives him confidence and helps him remain focused on you and responding to your cues. Sit tall, look where you’re going, and breathe in slow, deep breaths.
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